Hunters have a variety of choices when looking for the best hunting cartridge. Depending on the intended game and use, different cartridges have features that will meet the hunter's needs. The top 10 hunting cartridges of all-time are ranked for all-around performance, including versatility or the ability to use the cartridge for multiple species, power or the amount of kinetic energy from the bullet to effectively knock down the intended game, and accuracy or the ability to consistently produce tight groups.
The .30-06 Springfield is a most popular hunting cartridge for several reasons. It provides versatility with the ability to hunt several species of big game, including whitetail deer, elk and moose. Ammunition is affordable and easy to find with most firearm manufacturers offering the .30-06 Springfield as a caliber option.
The .270 Winchester is possibly the best all-around hunting cartridge with great long-range accuracy, flat-shooting and mild recoil. The caliber was introduced by Winchester Arms in 1925 and made famous by Jack O'Conner, an outdoors and firearms writer. The cartridge is based on the .30-06 Springfield with a longer case and slimmer body that allows the bullet to expand rapidly upon impact.
Introduced in 2001, the .300 WSM (Winchester Short Magnum) is a modern version of the .30 caliber. With the shorter cartridge, larger amounts of powder are closer to the ignition point that results in an even ignition, faster bullet velocity, better ballistics and increased accuracy.
.257 Weatherby Magnum
Roy Weatherby, owner of Weatherby Firearms, developed the .257 Weatherby Magnum in 1944. The .257 caliber cartridge provides enough power and kinetic energy for most big game including antelope, deer and African plains game. It features fast bullet velocities and flat-shooting ballistics, making it a perfect option for hunting in open terrain.
Hornady and Ruger teamed up in 2004 to introduce the .204 Ruger cartridge. Primarily used for varmint hunting including prairie dogs and coyotes, it has a blend of accuracy, efficiency and power. Maximum range can reach 500 yards with a bullet velocity reaching 4,000 feet/second with a 32-grain bullet.
7mm Remington Magnum
The 7mm Remington Magnum offers the big game hunter a great option for hunting elk and moose. It shoots flat and has more kinetic energy than the .30-06. Ammunition sales for the 7mm Remington Magnum are continually at the top, making it a popular choice for many hunters.
The .243 Winchester, introduced in 1955, offers more versatility than any other cartridge. It can be used for a wide range of game, including varmint hunting, deer, antelope, wild hogs and black bear. Youth and first-time hunters can use the cartridge due to the low recoil, accuracy and power.
.458 Winchester Magnum
For dangerous game, such as elephants, lions and Cape buffalo, the .458 Winchester Magnum has been a popular choice for African professional hunters since 1956. Recoil is high, but the bullet velocity provides a large amount of kinetic energy.
With muzzle velocities reaching 2,550 feet/second with a 20-grain bullet, the .17 HMR is a flat-shooting cartridge for many varmint hunters. Ammunition is easy to find and affordable with great accuracy and low recoil.
The .22 LR (Long Rifle) has been used for decades and is a popular choice for hunters around the world. Used mainly for target practice, varmint hunting and small game, the .22 LR is a perfect cartridge for the beginner or youth hunter. Ammunition is affordable and accurate.